Coffee shops are plentiful in Seoul and they do get creative with their gimmicks. Themed cafes is a thing here and I decided to try a few of those as well as some regular coffee places. Since Seoul has its monsoon season right now, so I visited a lot of coffee places whenever the rain got too crazy. They tend to be open from about 10 or 11am and don’t close until 10-midnight so chances are you’ll be able to get your coffee fix. You won’t need to visit starbucks to get some really good coffee when you’re in Seoul.
Cafe Berlin – Google maps placed this cafe in this part (337-36 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea) of Hongdae. I paid 4,8 for a hot latte to get out of the rain. The coffee is ok, a bit watery for my taste but not bad. It has a very industrial look to it and there’s classical music playing. They appear to do food and alcohol as well, but I just needed something hot. This isn’t one of those places that needs to go on your Places To Visit list since it’s a fairly standard cafe. However, if you’re in this part of Hongdae, it might be wort dropping by. As with most places, they have free wifi and comfortable seats. The menu is all in Korean though, so be prepared to stick to the standard orders. As I’m typing this they’ve just started playing that song from Final Fantasy X, I think it’s called Zanarkand’s Theme. It plays during the game’s opening. Anyhow, just thought it would be cool to mention.
Hello Kitty Cafe – again in Hongdae. It’s really easy to find directions for this place online so don’t panic. It also stands out because everything is so bloody pink. I’ve never been a Hello Kitty fan, I just don’t understand the whole thing and I’m not too fond of pink. It was fun to see this place, I just don’t understand how the character can be popular enough to generate a whole chain of coffee shops. It’s pink, you get a Hello Kitty face on your drink. I tried ordering a salad but they weren’t making them at that point during the day or something. There’s a gift shop attached to the coffee place, the cakes have Hello Kitty on them. If you’re a Hello Kitty fan, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more than I did. Was interesting to see but not something I would have kicked myself for missing if I hadn’t stumbled upon it. Seriously, the entire cafe is that pink.
Bau House Jeil Bldg. 1F 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Also in Hongdae, surprise! Ok, so this one is a bit more difficult to find since it is at the back of a building. The directions aren’t difficult but I struggled to find the sign for some reason. There’s a seven eleven and a cafe called Jazz just outside of it. So yeah, this is Seoul’s most famous dog cafe. Unlike most western dog cafes this doesn’t just mean that people can bring their dogs, it means that the cafe has dogs. A whole lovely bunch of them. You’re expected to pay for a minimum of one drink rather than paying and admission fee and you can buy dog treats for you new furry friends. The dogs are pretty well behaved and friendly, the one exception was a dog who nipped at my thigh whenever he wanted me to give him a treat. The sort of poking-with-teeth rather than a bite. The dogs range from chihuahuas to Alaskan mammoths (I know they’re not actually called that but I keep saying mammoths and given how big they are the name works) and they vary greatly in age. They appeared to be in a really good condition. One of the really old dogs (think she was close to 14 years old) had some difficulty moving but she seemed happy and well fed. Another had slightly runny eyes but I can’t tell the cause. They all looked well fed, well groomed, didn’t show any disturbing behaviours to indicate mistreatment, were social, and responded to the staffs’ commands. It was a lot of fun just hanging out with the dogs, some were playful and others just sat there enjoying life. If any accidents happened on the floor, it was immediately dealt with by staff and the floor was sanitised. For that reason I’d still be careful about ordering any food here, but drinks should still be safe. This gorgeous guy decided to sit opposite me while I enjoyed my peppermint tea. There was also a mixed breed one that sat by my side for a good half an hour hoping I’d occasionally sneak her a treat without letting the other dogs know. It was very enjoyable to watch the dogs play with each other and occasionally come over to see if you’d changed your mind about giving them more treats yet. I’m a massive fan of big dogs so it was a pleasant surprise to see that they had dogs that weren’t lapdogs. Really glad I decided to spend an hour or so here.
And now for something completely different. This is a small hole in the wall kind of place near Itaewon. Keep your eyes open or you’ll walk right past it. This place is what it would look like if Halloween Town had it’s own coffee place. All the cupcakes are monster themed and range from ghosts to the Cookie Monster to Jack Skellington to severed fingers. I have never been more sad to be unable to eat gluten. Sadly, they only do americano but they have several different blends. If you don’t want coffee, they also appear to have some pre mixed cocktails that are served in blood transfusion bags. If you’re in the area, definitely stop here to pick up a cupcake or to just look at the interior. There’s a life-sized ET for goodness sake.
Why WordPress disagrees with me on how this part of the post should be formatted, I’ll never know.
Cat Cafe! aka Hello Cat!
Korean name: Godabang
There are many cat cafes in Seoul and I visited two separate ones, the two I visited were a part of the same chain and I went to the ones in Hongdae and Myeong-dong. You buy a drink instead of a ticket just like you do at Bau House. Although the main difference between these cafes and Bau House is that one has dogs and the other has cats, they do feel quite different due to the obvious and well known differences between dogs and cats. These cat cafes would make a fantastic study spot for a stressed out student and there’s a chance I might visit a cat cafe in Brisbane (there’s one that will open fairly soon, I’ve heard).
There’s a wide range of cats available, ranging from fur balls to those hairless cats that freak people out. As I mentioned, I visited two branches of this cafe and the animals were well looked after in both of them. They have rules that the guests will need to be observed and spaces the cats can go to when they want to be left alone. At the first branch I visited, I found the single grumpiest looking cat I’ve ever seen. Naturally we got along just fine. The fellow in this photo was a really nice cat who didn’t mind people staring at him due to his lack of fur.
Thanks Nature Cafe!
Also located in Hongdae is the cafe that got me interested in themed cafes. I’d heard about cat and dog cafes before and thought they were cute ideas but never really felt a desperate need to visit one. Thanks Nature on the other hand really did intrigue me. I went in and ordered a hot chocolate for a normal price, no admission like the others. Based on the pattern on the chocolate you might be able to guess what animals they keep here.
That’s right, it’s a SHEEP CAFE. I am not even joking.
They’re kept in a pen outside and occasionally get released into the cafe so that they can interact with customers. Having grown up in the countryside, I’ve seen a fair amount of sheep in my days. The sheep that were there on the day I visited looked extremely healthy and didn’t show any behavioural signs that indicated distress or boredom. They were curious, well fed, clean, and had access to cover, water, and salt. Customers were allowed to go into a section that the sheep could walk into when they felt like socialising but not into their actual shelter. Again, it makes me really happy that the sheep were able to withdraw when they didn’t feel like interacting with customers.
I just love these themed cafes and I think the gimmicks of the cafes I’ve been to have been quite clever. I’ll never understand Hello Kitty but I thought that cafe was a good example of how to decadently indulge in something you love. I’d recommend to anyone to check out these cafes and I’d recommend to cafe owners that they consider theming their cafe. Why? Because it’s awesome.
In addition to these ones, there’s one I wanted to go to but couldn’t. Apparently there’s a cafe in Gangnam called 221b. Yes, there’s apparently a cafe dedicated to BBC’s Sherlock. Sadly it appears to be closed on weekends which was when I went on my cafe field trip.